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I would heavily consider a history major if this crappy business college offers one, but most of my history-leaning professors would just be appalled at Hishamuddin’s idea on how history ought to be taught in school.

“What is important is noble values like patriotism, loving the country, comprehending the sacrifice of national heroes and understanding that the present state of the country did not come about just by being still but through blood and sweat.

“We must not be satisfied by our present position what with a world that is now smaller. Such efforts must be continued and intensified through how we stress our history to our children while they are still in school,” Hishammuddin told reporters after launching a book on the country’s old documents and agreements published by the National Institute of Translation (ITNM) at the Parliament lobby on Thursday.

I thought the point of history is to learn about the past? If the past of Malaysia doesn’t instill patriotism, or worse, lowers patriotism – so be it. Patriotism ought to be earned, not learned.

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4 Comments

  1. There’s a difference between the learning of history and the teaching of history. The former, the learning of history, is to understand the present. The latter is ideological hegemony. A sufficiently well trimmed history syllabus can give legitimacy to the current government through a cherry-picked narrative, where guerrila terrorists are heroes, and whatever previous government did a really terrible job that the current one is trying to fix.

  2. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it rather stupid/distasteful that the public justification for teaching history is to instill “noble values”. I mean, won’t the effectiveness of any brainwashing be lost if the subjects know of it? And wouldn’t this teaching history be a lot more effective if students assumes what they are learning is impartial and neutral?

    I’m just saying.

  3. You’re expecting a lot out of the average 16 year old to be aware of brainwashing. Maybe ask him about the latest gossip/fashion/music and he/she will perk up a bit more.

  4. Here in the States some folks felt much the same way. After all, history is important in shaping identity, and as we saw in the Balkans it can be used in bad ways to teach the public to hate. UNESCO built history standards partially in reaction to that.

    You can see more examples in many countries–witness the arguments over Japanese history texts in Korea, for instance.

    The problem we have here in the US is that the correctives we did to avoid focusing on the heroic narrative and exposing the defects went way way overboard, and now we focus on our defects to the exclusion of anything good. Howard Zinn’s one volume history of the US, once written as a corrective for the traditional narrative, is now the traditional narrative–and that history is one of every oppressed or victimized group touched by the US. For World War Two, for instance, the curriculum for my kid here in one grade is the Japanese-American internment camps and the atomic bomb from the Japanese viewpoint, and that’s about it. So we’ve got worse problems in my opinion than an overly jingoistic narrative taught in schools; we’ve got a failure to understand what happened and why we think it did. Patriotism may be earned, but on the other hand suppression of patriotism (as opposed to nationalism) can be bad. I well understand that isn’t the problem where you live; I’m just griping about my own situation.

    The best teachers I’ve found expose as many aspects as possible and teach their kids to seek out different sides to a story and evaluate with an open mind. These teachers are rare indeed.

    I wish you luck in finding good history learning and if you PM me I can offer what resources I have available.


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